Tri-Cities retail sales tax collections take a thumping

Tri-Cities retail sales tax collections took a solid thumping in March as did most other state metro areas. The silver lining to that news is two Tri-Cities Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) got off easier than the rest of the state. The two were: Morristown and Kingsport-Bristol.


U.S retail sales fell for the second straight month, and the March drop was more than expected, according to the Commerce Department.

Auto sales led the decline, and gas-station sales posted one of the biggest drops of all businesses. Market watchers say the downturn in auto sales is going to be a headwind for retail in general.

Across Tennessee retail sales tax collections were down 6.2% from March last year and 9.8% from April, according to data from Middle State Tennessee State University Tracking Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Web page.

The March-to-April tracking here in Northeast Tennessee was almost a dramatic as it was on the state level, but the year-to-year comparison was a little more encouraging in Morristown and Kingsport-Bristol. The Johnson City and Knoxville MSAs saw year-over-year declines of 5% or better.

Here’s what those month-to-month comparisons look like followed by the year-over-year comparisons.

-Johnson City MSA – down 6.6%, down 5%
-Kingsport-Bristol MSA – down 6.7%, down 1.9%
-Knoxville MSA – down 9.1%, down 5.8%.
-Morristown MSA – down 9.4%, down 0.4%.

The Chattanooga MSA took the biggest collection hits – down 14.6% from April and down 12.2% from March last year.

Here in the Tri-Cities, the declines followed February’s collections high point for this year. And one reason for the big drops is March last year was a highest year-over-year increase since February 2012. And it was the 9th straight month that the year-over-year collection Tri-Cities tend saw its two metro areas tacking each other.

The share of collections was unchanged from February – Johnson City claiming 48.5% of the region’s total collections. Kingsport-Bristol has claimed a slightly larger share of collections in all by nine months of the past six years. Johnson City’s share has been in the 48% range since October of last year.

Total collections in the Tri-Cities were at a 24-month low.


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  1. Retail sales tax collections improve in Johnson City MSA – Kingsport-Bristol still in a funk; economic signals mixed – Core Data